CRISIS AND FULNESS
by Rev. Arnold Reimer
What is more attractive than a person who consistently demonstrates the fruit of the Spirit? (Galatians 5:22-23) Think of the impact a whole church could have in any community when the fruit of the Spirit is the distinguishing mark of every member. Ponder the significance of each word used to describe this fruit: “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control”.
Nothing could be more seeker-friendly, genuinely attractive, than an individual or church whose behaviour, attitudes and actions consistently demonstrated such fruit. The sad truth must be confessed that rarely is this true. Divisions, carnality, worldliness, exclusiveness, tensions, indifference, unhappiness and insensitivity are far too common among us. Because we are content to explain that “nobody is perfect”, or that, “after all, we are just human”, we allow a low state of spiritual life to persist. “The river of living water” (the Spirit) is not flowing so others would notice or benefit.
When did you last hear a message on the fulness of the Spirit that so moved your spirit and mind that you cried out to God in sincere yearning for either the work, or a renewal, of the Holy Spirit in your life? More importantly, has the Spirit of God so filled your life to overflowing that the fruit of the Spirit grows unhindered in you? You will know clearly that is happening when others notice the fruit of the Spirit managing and transforming all you do, including your relationships with those both near to, and distant from, you.
The fruit of the Spirit is not a do-it-yourself project for sincere saints. It is not even a natural result of more time spent in prayer and the reading of the Word. It does not happen because you fulfill the essential spiritual disciplines of service, giving, devotion and worship. The fruit of the Spirit only happens because one is filled with the Spirit. Scripture, observation and experience indicate that the fulness of the Spirit is a unique work in the life of the believer in Jesus. And, we must understand that the fulness of the Spirit is as essential to the Christian’s daily walk as is salvation to being alive in Christ. Our Lord Jesus came to give us both!
Pentecost is more than an historical event giving birth to the Church; it is an empowerment of the Father ensuring that the holy life of Christ is faithfully and truly lived in His children. This is no theological option for charismatically inclined saints as distinct from the run-of-the mill types. Without the fulness of the Spirit of God we are doomed to mediocrity, struggle, carnal swings of mood and the limitations of a weak faith. There is a reason why the Apostle Paul in Galatians 5 juxtapositioned the desires and deeds of the flesh against the fruit of the Spirit. Apart from the fulness of the Spirit the flesh keeps cropping up, damaging us and our testimony. (Romans 7)
How, then, shall we be filled with the Spirit? Why is this crucial, spiritual experience so illusive? When our Lord told us that the Father is more willing to give to us the Holy Spirit than we are to ask for Him, (Luke 11:13) why is it that so many ask but do not seem to receive? (If that statement sounds judgmental, I appeal to the evidence that the lack of the fruit of the Spirit is simply too obvious in our circles.) Consider now what I believe to be a serious lack in our teaching about the fulness of the Spirit: it was once called, “the crisis experience.”
There was a remarkable difference between the pre- and post-Pentecost disciples. The first were insecure, weak of faith, full of misunderstanding and often failing in attitude and action. Jesus pointed them to the Spirit’s enduement as the solution. He had said He came to baptize them with the Holy Spirit and with fire. In John 14 - 16 He explained to them that when He was gone the Holy Spirit would not only be with them, but in them. He told them what the Spirit would do in and through them. Acts 1 - 2 describes the fulfilment of His promises and the rest of the book illustrates what the Spirit does through people He fills.
The Gospels tell us the story of Jesus’ coming, His selection of the disciples and the careful instructions and actions He displayed before them for three intensive years. When He told them of His pending death and return to His Father they were dismayed. They were ill prepared to function without Him. His basic answer was, “Do not leave Jerusalem until you be endued with power.” “You shall receive power after that the Holy Spirit is come upon you, and you shall be My witnesses . . . .”
Those three years taught them by trial and error they could not be or do what He wanted of them. His revelation that He was going to leave them was a major crisis. Though they had left all to follow Him they often failed Him. They were inadequate for what He expected of them. They did not grasp the significance and the magnitude of what it was He wanted. We can only imagine the desperation in their minds as they gathered together in the upper room in hostile Jerusalem waiting for a strange happening completely foreign to their experience. For ten days, perhaps more, of heart searching prayer they came to oneness of mind about His promise to baptize them with the Holy Spirit and with fire; and, He did not fail them. Their transformed lives, anointed of the Spirit, changed their world - and ours!
Over and over again both in Scripture and throughout Church history God has used crisis experiences to bring people to confront a crucial reality to Christian experience: we cannot do things God’s way in and of ourselves. Our flesh is too weak, our ideas too encumbered with self and smallness, our strength too limited, our faith too small, our efforts at holiness too ineffective and tarnished, our wisdom too foolish and corrupt, our sins too many. God will have none of it. So, He allows us our puny efforts and machinations and, eventually, we end up in a pit of despair. But, if we really want to know Him and to do things His ways, if we ever get a true glimpse of what He wants of us, we throw up our hands in humble submission and cry, “Woe is me, for I am ruined! Because I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King the Lord of hosts.” (Isaiah 6:5)
The Apostle Paul put it similarly in Romans 7, and finally said, “Wretched man that I am! Who will set me free from the body of this death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord . .” Romans 8 comes alive and powerful in such a context.
For years I earnestly sought the fulness of the Holy Spirit. My good Christian upbringing, my gifts and personality, my education and successes, my earnest desires for God and for His work kept me from admitting what a failure I really was from the divine perspective. I could not grasp the truth that I could not do God’s work my way, in my strength. In a black hole of despair, dug with my own hands, I went again to the cross and laid it all down - failures and successes, ambitions and motives, people, places and things, attitudes and actions - an endless list of things I cherished. Life became a crisis that pushed me to the end of myself and, then, to the boundless provision of God’s gift, the Holy Spirit, and Him alone, working the life of Christ in me. At the end of myself I found the sufficiency of Christ - mine by the indwelling Holy Spirit, lovingly waiting to fill me.
Arnold Reimer has served as a pastor/missionary with the Christian and Missionary Alliance for 50 years. He began his ministry in Rosetown, Sk. after which he served with his wife, Frances, in Colombia, S.A. After one term they pastored the Woodward Ave. Alliance Church, now Rosewood, in Regina. In 1969 they moved to the Avenue Road/Bayview Glen Church where they remained until 1991. Returning to Regina he served as the District Superintendent for one term. Since 1995 he has been a Minister-at-Large in both the Eastern and Central Canadian Districts.